Kansas is overly punitive for minor infractions



November 6, 2019 - 10:14 AM

Last week, Kansas legislators on a bipartisan criminal justice reform committee heard the disturbing news that half of the 213,000 Kansans with suspended driver’s licenses are driving anyway. What’s disturbing is not that these people are driving but instead that they are part of a system that can end their legal ability to drive for relatively minor infractions — not paying a fine, for example.

A system that makes it all but impossible for more than 100,000 Kansas to earn a living and provide for their families is a system that needs to change. We hope that those considering the subjects take information in these hearings to heart, and consider more besides.

It is important that legislators understand the ways in which the criminal justice system intersects with the lives of everyday Kansans. For many of those on the lower end of the socio-economic scale, or those in communities of color, the system is not a source of comfort or relief but instead a set of barriers that prevents them from progressing forward in life and contributing to the state’s economy. And make no mistake, this system disproportionately affects those who are least able to handle its consequences.

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